3. How do we build inclusive, sustainable and accessible urban spaces that reflect and encompass the diversity and needs of all inhabitants?

March 24, 2017

This discussion is now closed. Thank you for your participation.


  • Claudio Torres Slum Upgrading Consultant, Housing and Slum Upgrading Branch. UN-Habitat
  • Pireh Otieno Human Settlements Officer, Urban Basic Services Branch - UN-Habitat
  • Kulwant Singh Regional Advisor - UN-Habitat
  • Marcus Mayr Urban Planner, Climate Change Planning Unit, UN-Habitat
  • Edmundo Werna Head of Unit at Sectoral Policies Dept. ILO

3. How do we build inclusive, sustainable and accessible urban spaces that reflect and encompass the diversity and needs of all inhabitants?

Question 3: How do we build inclusive, sustainable and accessible urban spaces that reflect and encompass the diversity and needs of all inhabitants?

Please share your ideas and/or examples below.

Featured Comment ()
Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Tue, March 22, 2016 at 12.24 am

Thank you very much for all your contributions. Unfortunately our online platform will close in less then a week, on 26 March, and we still have much to discuss about the urgent need to respect and promote the entire range of human rights for the benefit of all who use or have an interest in public urban spaces.

So far, from the interventions, it is possible to say that despite the fact that individuals have the right to participate in public affairs and in decision making affecting their lives, they tend to be excluded from urban planning processes. However, good practices regarding the issue of participation have been shared, such as the « creative communities » in Indonesia, in which communities have been involved in the renovation of public spaces, or in Mexico, with the initiative of developing participatory planning in the context of displacement due to infrastruture projects.

Another issue that has been raised is about the right to access to, and the enjoyment of cultural heritage in public spaces. From the interventions, cultural heritage in public spaces seems to be neglected in urban planning, and inhabitants are excluded from participating in the identification of what, in terms of their shared cultural heritage, is important to them, as well as in the development and implementation of policies related to their cultural rights in urban spaces.

Additionally, the challenges faced by certain groups in terms of the accessibility of transportation and their mobility in public urban spaces were mentioned. The specific needs of certain groups, such as older persons and those with disabilities, tend to be disregarded in urban planning and related policies. Urban planners should recognise the impact of ageing on urban spaces. Without access to the physical, social, economic and cultural environments of public spaces, certain groups cannot fully enjoy all their rights and freedoms. According to the interventions, there is a positive initiative in the US, with the adoption of specific laws, indicators and indexes that are aimed at improving access by persons with disabilities in public spaces.

Finally, another concern raised was about the right to safety and security due to violence and crime in public spaces. Individuals should be able to live in peaceful and safe environments in order to reduce their vulnerability and safeguard their involvement in the life of the community. In this regard, some studies related to urban violence prevention have been shared with us.

I strongly encourage present and new participants to send more contributions to the issues of participation, inclusion, accessibility, mobility, cultural heritage and security. Would anyone else like to share their views about universal design in urban planning ? Or how public spaces could be used as a tool for excluded groups to project their voices and participate in the decision making affecting their lives ? What about the access to other rights, such as water and sanitation ? How could we improve our public urban spaces in order to enhance social cohesion, promote cultural diversity and intergenerational solidarity ?

But in addition, I would suggest that we also address important issues that have not yet been raised such as the challenges faced by other groups, including women, migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons, or those living on the street. For instance, would someone like to share their views about the issue of homelessness in urban public spaces ?

I look forward to a fruitful exchange. 

Ian at The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Tue, March 22, 2016 at 03.23 am

Just to get the ball rolling as a follow-up to the very important points posted by Lydia, i find two ironies in my experiences of using and studying urban space in Manila. Firstly, by day spaces become a locale where homeless people can be seen, yet by night they are cleared from such environments. Consequently they are pushed into areas peripheral to the urban spaces. Secondly. spaces were originally designed for cohesion: cohesion with respect to promoting nationhood, and uniting all social groups together via spatial use. Now due to lack of accessibility, and or spaces becoming lined with high-end housing, the matter of cohesion has been fundamentally undermined. As an outcome of this the rich, in my perception, like to see spaces, although they dont appear to be the users of the spaces. Spaces, ones that look nice, become magnets for posh houses and a selling point to draw people into them – “located near to….with outstanding views to” being the developers rhetoric – but this process of gentrify areas about spaces has lessened their useage, and made the users of the spaces much more narrow than it used to be.

On Lydia’s point about accessibility I call myself a realist which really means, with reference to many parts of Asia, I’m a pessimist. Capital cities, in particular, are so large, their traffic flows so heavy, and their public transport infrastructure so inefficient for the needs of all citizens it is almost impossible for being to access central spaces. Unless major MRT systems are built, and made cheap for all to use, e.g. as in places like Medellin, Colombia, people residing in particular districts will be cut off from the city at large.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Thu, March 24, 2016 at 10.12 pm

Ian, thank you once again for your comment. You always manage to bring some specific examples to help illustrate the points you are making.  This is very much appreciated. You describe a situation that is perhaps widespread an everyday feature of the modern city.  For a variety of reasons, the logic and cohesion of a city’s original design has often been overtaken by the scale and overwhelming demands of modern society, with the result that the modern city – but not necessarily the modern design of a city – is no longer able to meet the needs of the society it exists to serve.  The shortcomings of transportationsystems is a case in point. If you were asked to submit one particular recommendation that you would like to see included in a new Urban Agenda, regarding public spaces, localities for social cohesion and interaction, what would it be?

We have had participants from Canada, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, the UK and USA… how is the situation in these countries? Any comments? We will all benefit from your inputs. It would be interesting to know what each of you would offer by way of a single recommendation for change.

Ian at The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Fri, March 25, 2016 at 02.49 pm

Happ Easter to you, Lydia. To give one recommendation is tricky, as a few are needed! Without being contentious Sustainable Development has been around for decades, and knowledge of smart and resilient cities has been enlarged by a number of very important studies in recent years. Therefore there is a plethora of guidelines – no, knowledge – easily accessible for public authorities to utilise. But do they? As as an earlier post with respect to Indonesia demonstrated, where intentions are strong positive results can emerge. So with that in mind, I’d like to see some kind of charter which government be they local, regional, and national can commit to, which states they are willing to up their intention to improve cities in relation to social cohesion. Maybe this is going over old ground but at least in Asia terms such as Sustainable Development are so politically defined all in all not much transpire as to environmental, social, and thus urban improvement. I’d like to see something on a redefinition of governance, hence some charter governments to sign to which acknowledges they haven’t done enough/been as successful as they should be, and so are consequently more prepared in the short and long term future to establish policies beneficial for all. This could be, as a case in point, improving public transportation to parts of the cities, e.g. central spaces, thereby making them more accessible. At least this would help negate, in the case of many Asian capital cities, the fact that urban movement is very problematic given heavy traffic flows, the large amount of time needed for travel, lack of metro systems, etc. Commitment not just words are needed!

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sat, March 26, 2016 at 08.40 pm

Many thanks Ian for your constructive inputs during these 2 weeks. Your suggestions will be included in the report. Please keep engaged in the urban dialogues!

icomos españa
Thu, July 21, 2016 at 06.14 am

el espacio público tiene muchos significados y connotaciones para los especialistas; uno para el sociólogo, otro para el abogado, otro para el artista, otro para el arquiecto, otro para el ciudadano.

El espacio público  no solamente tiene una dimensión física, es también el contenedor de la expresión de lo común: reivindicaciones, actividades, protestas, fiestas, circulación distracción, etc.

El espacio público si viene dado permite estar pero no ser. Para que el ciudadano sea y no solamente esté, debe concebirse un espacio público activo, dinámico.

El espacio público es aquel que se construye entre todos, el ciudadano inmerso en la ciudad, comprometido con ésta. En otras palabras, el mejor espacio público será el que la mejor ciudadanía lo haya hecho posible. Como construirlo? Construyendo ciudadania.

Gregor H. Mews Urban Synergies Group Director and Consultant from Australia
Fri, July 22, 2016 at 04.09 am

Hola and hello,

It is a valid point and spot on. For this very reason and in the lead up to the conference we hostet a grassroots event in Canberra, Australia, on the “Right to the City”.

Participants form all over the capital were invited to participate and make their voice heard on what the “Right to the City” means to them. Urban Synergies Group compilled the information and tranlated the human centres paradigm into the Canberra context. The document aims to generate more discussion and attempts to link the philosophy with practical and tangible outcomes. The official launch is on the 4th August 2016 in Canberra.

However I’d like to share the Perspective Statement already with the group. Everyone is most welcome to use the document officially after the launch date. A digital version will be accesible on the website from the same date.  Of course we are delighted to hear what you think and if this document is helpful to inform debates in Quito. Please send us your comments or feedback to info@urbansynergiesgroup.org or visit www.urbansynergies.org

Thank you. Muchas gracias.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sun, April 3, 2016 at 04.53 pm

Dear all,

It was a real pleasure to moderate this Urban Dialogue on Public Spaces. The level of participation – even after the end of this online forum on 26 March – and the sharing of good practices and challenges has brought to light the need to do more to build inclusive, sustainable and accessible urban spaces that effectively reflect and encompass the diversity and needs of all inhabitants.

To help make this a reality, all individuals must have their human rights respected, protected and promoted in urban public spaces. The main rights mentioned over the 2 weeks were: (a) to participate in decision making involving urban planning processes; (b) to have access to, and the enjoyment of cultural heritage in public spaces, which includes the involvement of individuals and all members of society in the identification, development and implementation of policies related to their cultural rights in urban spaces; (c) to accessibility, which means the existence of appropriate measures to ensure access to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications and to other facilities and services in urban spaces; and, (d) to ensure safety and security, which refers to the fact that individuals should be able to live in peaceful and safe environments.

It also emerged from our discussions that States must pay particular attention to specific groups when developing and implementing urban plans. Certain groups, including older persons, persons with disabilities, women, children, migrants, and those living on the street, face particular challenges due to their age, disability, social conditions or origin. Social cohesion and interaction as well as inter-generational solidarity can only be promoted if urban planners include those groups in the development of urban policies. Attention should also be given to those living in emergency, conflict and disaster situations. Public spaces should be localities that build resilience and include all.

Finally, the online forum highlighted the need for clear monitoring mechanisms and measures that enhance the accountability of State authorities and other stakeholders – in particular the private sector – at all levels for their action or omission. Awareness raising campaigns and training programmes on human rights for those working on urban planning should be encouraged to provide the capacity necessary to meet international obligations.

This question will, I am sure, continue to be discussed tomorrow in Habitat III Thematic Meeting on Public Spaces in Barcelona. Hope the New Urban Agenda will incorporate a human rights based approach. Thank you, once again, for your participation and for your constructive contributions. I wish you all the best! 

Bahram Ghazi from
Wed, March 30, 2016 at 03.50 pm

These questions have been discussed for many years and in many places. Solutions exists in terms of inclusivity, accessibility for persons with disability, etc.

 For instance, the UN Housing Rights Programme recently launched a publication on “The right to adequate housing for persons with disabilities living in cities”. A human rights based approach to urbanization is necessary to overcome the barriers and impediments persons with disabilities face. Such an approach is directly relevant to the implementation of state obligations, and in particular the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Various good practice can also be found in a previous publication entitled “Accessibility of housing: a handbook of inclusive affordable housing solutions for persons with disabilities and older persons”. Available at: https://unhabitat.org/books/accessibility-of-housing/

It is the implementation of these solutions that is lacking. Some because lack of resources, but also because of lack of coordinated policies and programmes, use of available resources in a sound way, and the lack of accountability and monitoring for progress, stagnation or regress. That is why the New Urban Agenda should consider clear monitoring mechanisms, in line with SDGs, and reemphasise the need for clear division of responsibility and accountability of state authorities.  In relation to this question, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Ms. Leilani Farha, has devoted one of her reports to the responsibilities of local and other subnational governments (see report A/HRC/28/62, available here: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx).

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sat, April 2, 2016 at 08.08 pm

Thank you once again Bahram for sending your contribution to all questions. Very much appreciated! Thank you also for drawing attention to those reports that contain action oriented recommendations that States have to effectively implement. Solutions exist, but the challenge is often in the implementation process. The Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, has also reminded States of their international obligations and highlighted that the New Urban Agenda is an important occasion to renew commitments to protect and promote the rights of all inhabitants, including older persons (available at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16520&LangID=Em)

Ian at The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Fri, April 1, 2016 at 09.56 am

I really agree with the prior post. There are guidelines, theoretical and practical frameworks as to what policy should be, but if political intent is absent then implementation is concurrently lacking.

Bamenda City Council
Mon, March 28, 2016 at 02.25 am

To make public spaces inclusive sustainable and accesible, they must be planned in such that be them either private or public ouned, a token charge should be levied on thers acess according to income level. Those who are of the higher income should pay more and inn the course subsidise those who are  classified as the urban poor but need to be seen sharing the same public places with the Rich. In Bamenda, We have limityed public spaces such that the those in eixistence  are for the moment used without any charge. There has always been dificulty of making thm suatainable as the state has to bear every aspect of upkeep. But when you visit a place like the Botanacal  Gerden of Dr. Ngwache Francis in Bafut which is a neighboring settlement to the City, You will see that the gaeden is properly kept even after the death of this founder.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sat, April 2, 2016 at 08.10 pm

Thank you very much to Bamenda City Council for that valuable contribution and for sharing with us experiences from Cameroun. It would be very interesting to know more about the role of the Council in the development and implementation of urban policies. Would it be possible to expand perhaps by explaining the additional challenges that City Council faces or with examples of good practice? Thank you in advance. 

Gregor H. Mews Consultant Urban Planner and Designer from Australia
Sun, March 27, 2016 at 07.35 am

A return to values in a society of unconscious consumption in four steps

Sustainability, health and wellbeing are fundamentally intertwined. This article argues that this interdependence should be recognised and explicitly included into sustainability theory. Philosophical observations and system critic thinkers such as Henri Lefebvre and Martin Heidegger provide an opportunity to revisit our contemporary approach and practice regarding sustainable healthy lifestyles in an everyday context.

Lefebvre’s “everyday” concept, as Hegel cites it, refers to the real life in the here and now. Sustenance, clothing, furniture, homes, neighbourhoods and the environment as objects providing meaning to subjects in the context of every day life. He critiques the capability of people to generate consciousness as part of ordinary, trivial, banal and repetitive characteristics of life in contemporary capitalism. This highlights one of the greatest dilemma of societies achieving significant outcomes on the ground that can prevent climate change beyond the 2 Degree Celsius mark.

None of that is really new. The Brundtland Commission acknowledged in the 1987 with the Report “Our Common Future” a fertile ground. Harlem Bundtland, the former Prime Minister of Norway, herself had a strong background in Public Health. Slowly 29 years later, under the umbrella of the New Urban Agenda by United Nation (UN Habitat) we have been given another chance to embrace collective actions towards a common goal that concerns all of us.

One of the most powerful tools is social media and Apps. It provides a vehicle to understand people’s individual choices as part of their daily lives. When analysing user behaviour we can gain valuable insights into peoples lives and draw conclusions on collective consequences of their daily actions. One of the best examples are Geographical Information Systems (GIS) based traffic Apps that help you to avoid traffic jams. However, it is not just a tool to communicate in a one- way stream but a tool to convey and engage in a dialog on matters that directly relate to peoples every day lives.

Georg Lukács and Martin Heidegger described it with the term “Alltäglichkeit, meaning “authentic existence of being”. This opens a window of opportunity to grasp peoples lost direction in an inauthentic existence and provide them with solutions that not just benefit their daily lives but help to prevent climate change.

What can be understood as “authentic existence”? Especially for people in western oriented nations it can be seen as an invitation to engage in the adventure of every day life.  Giving a new meaning to space and time through playful interaction with our immediate environment, that we collectively experience and share. Authentic existence can be easiest experienced through being in touch with our senses. Playful interaction with objects can transform the perception of time. People dedicate themselves to playful activities and enjoy it, we tend to share collectively this experience in a group environment. We are able give this space a new meaning. The space becomes a place. The flow theory of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi provides a fertile basis for this claim. One engages with one’s sense and makes meaning of an object in a state of concentration that ultimately impacts the environment around oneself. While engaging in the flow through play, one forgets time and enjoys it purely based on intrinsic rewards. One truly discovers meaning and the joy of being as well as living in the moment.

The evaluation of my international workshops found this to be a very effective technique to realise participants state of “authentic existence”. Active reflection under professional guidance allows participants to increase their level of consciousness and to become creative innovators as part of their professional work in the field of administration, landscape architecture, planning or urban design. However, it did even more. Many of them rediscovered the playful side in themselves helping them to realise the value of trust, space and time.

How does that relate to sustainable development as part of peoples individual actions? For example, through rediscovery of “authentic existence” as part of the state of being, spaces become places and places can increase in value with time. Instead of using the car, one can choose to walk or cycle more often, engaging with the environment in a natural speed. By rediscovering biophilic life around them their physical and mental health improves. Some of the collective benefits are self evident, reduced noise and air pollution, less accidents generate savings in the health system, decongest urban environments, reduces carbon emissions and benefits to the social capital.  All these benefits have a direct impact on our development as the human race, but the traditional approach with the triple bottom line does not stack up.

What does this new sustainable development model that recognises health and well-being look like?

The model is fundamentally based on our collective bio-history and recognises the limits of earths carrying capacity. The health- and well-being is based on the environmental dimension providing the base for our collective social existence. The collective wealth we create as part of the social dimension generates and builds the economical wealth. This wealth has to be managed with care and consciously fed back through the social dimension, and benefit ultimately the environment. By adding the arrows explicitly into the sustainability paradigm, the message of ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option (see graphic attached).

How do we get there?

1. It is important to recognise to revisit the existing ‘business as usual’ paradigm executed by many western oriented governments.

2. Raise the collective consciousness, based on the playful experiences with the environment, which most governments can initiate through workshops with professionals and with the community.

3. Include health and well-being into the sustainability paradigm, introduce and underpin them with “play space” workshops and actions from top- down and bottom- up.

4. Utilise modern media beyond one-way communication stream or in a reactive manner. Let people be playful. Trust them and empower them to share positive experiences through their videos, infographics and stories on how to transform their “every day life” in a healthy sustainable manner. Be inspired by the New York based Amplify Project as a successful case study (https://www.amplifyingcreativecommunities.org).

What can you do after reading this article?

Reflect upon the philosophical discourse. Embrace this model, go out an engage playfully with your “every day life” environment. Take pictures, make a fun video or share your story of your “every day” adventure evolving your sustainable lifestyle and love for places. Share your experience in your social media network. Perhaps call your government and advocate for change. Help them to respond to the New Urban Agenda and rediscover a new consciousness in our everyday lives that breaks the circle of unconscious consumption in an interdependent world. 

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sat, April 2, 2016 at 08.12 pm

Thank you very much, Gregor H. Mews, for your interesting comment. It serves to reinforce the idea that the New Urban Agenda should be centred on people and the rights agenda. Individuals should be empowered to claim their rights rather than simply wait for the introduction of policies and legislation, or the provision of services. As rights-holders, they should be able to exercise their rights in all circumstances. Would you like to share more information about community-based solutions for improving the inclusiveness and sustainability of urban public spaces? What are the lessons learned from the project Amplify? Thank you. 

Transitec Ingénieurs-Conseils
Sat, March 26, 2016 at 10.50 pm

Dear colleagues,

The concept of public space embrasses both a symbolic and a physical dimension. Public space is the place where we meet the other and thus, where we define the sense of collective life. It is also related to the physical places (streets, places…), where any person can freely transit or stand.

Let me share with you,  three elements that might be considered when designing public urban spaces, especially when looking forward turning roads into streets:

 1)    Responsible urban design lies on a multimodal approach of mobility

 The way citizens coexist on public spaces reflects how mobility is organized at different scales (city, neighborhood, streets) and how road design allows more or less intensity on urban life. The traditional roadway design standards respond to a car oriented system based more on speed than on safety, which banishes the possibilities to share space and to interact harmoniously with other road users.

When working on public space projects, a clear road network hierarchy must be defined in first place in order to match the use and operating speed of roads and their design to their immediate environment. This means considering the needs of both motorized and non-motorized modes in order to allocate road space properly, while improving road safety and designing spaces for all road users.

2)    Public space as a continuum

As an extension of people dwellings, public space makes part of our habitat. It hosts most of our consecutive daily trips, which all start and end as walking trips. Public space is rarely a clustered space. Instead, it lies on rich and networks, particularly pedestrian networks, which define the walkability of a city, and therefore, its accessibility.

 Beside the specific pedestrian infrastructure, appropriate road design and (crossings and sections), and design for all considerations  can encourage longer non-motorized trips and thus help citizens insertion on its social environment, creating a large sense of identity, while strolling and discovering streetscapes.

 3)    Public space projects require complementary professional skills improvement

 Designing a street, a place or any other public space, needs a collaborative work between technic disciplines (traffic engineering, town planning,…) and stakeholders, in order to express functional requirements, aesthetic considerations and practice and symbolic representations for inhabitants.

 A serious lack of urban mobility professionals (experts) is observed. Yet, both in public (state and municipal levels alike) and in private sector, there is a demand for professionals with skills, proficiencies and competencies related both to urban design and mobility, complementary disciplines. 

New collaborations between universities and public or private sector can be engaged in order to complement the mentioned disciplines by reviewing syllabus and encouraging combined training programs. A particular target would be women, who can develop a particular awareness on public space needs, and whose awareness on urban mobility and urban design issues can already be done at school.


Sandra Bonilla de Cazorla

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sat, April 2, 2016 at 08.13 pm

Thank you very much, Sandra Bonilla de Cazorla, for your valuable contribution. You highlighted the importance of professional awareness, on the part of engineers, architects and others, of the implications of their profession on the enjoyment of all human rights by individuals. We will include your observation in our report. 

Jens Aerts Architect and Urban planner and professor from Belgium
Sat, March 26, 2016 at 10.10 pm

As I read through all comments, I find no more general principles to add. but as Habitat III pleads to shift from principles to concrete implementation, there should be a call to all UN agencies and other supranational bodies such as the World Bank, who invest large budgets in infrastructure, roads and public spaces to condition these investments with the principles mentioned below. For example, a simple condition in infrastructures and public space should be that maximum 50% could be exclusively reserved to car traffic. This rule, commonly practised in Barcelona for example, implies there is an awareness about sustainable modes of transport that happen in the other 50% of the space (or even more). But it also fosters an anwareness of the infrastructure or public space as a space with another function as an infrastructural one: a social space to meet, with several spaces where several types of people – age, gender, number – are able to meet at ease. By highlighting public space as at least 50 % space that is not been ‘engineered’ for traffic, it opens autmatically towards participation in the design and management of this space, as it will be used by people in variouse, creative ways. It would be consistent that this kind of 50% not exclusively car oriented space would be a condition used by all authorities.   

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sat, April 2, 2016 at 08.14 pm

Thank you very much, Jens Aerts, for your valuable contribution and for providing a specific recommendation that could be effectively implemented. Well noted and thank you once again. 

Catherine Holt Toledo Consultant from United States
Sat, March 26, 2016 at 09.56 pm

In order for women’s distinct needs and cocerns to be addressed in urban planning, they must participate in the policy discussions and determinations. Therefore their role in urban and spatial planning must increase. Disaggregated data that includes sex and age must be used to accurately access the needs of citizens of a community.

The following are recommendations of the EGM on Engedering the New Urban Agenda, 29-30 September, 2015 cosponsored by the Habitat III Secretariat and the Huairou Commission are as follows:

  • Zoning and planning tools and policies must include women in decision-making and integrate women’s needs.
  • Increase access to resources to support and increase women’s role in food system from production, processing and distribution including land ownership.
    • Provide quarterly forums for grassroots women producers to dialogue with local officials regarding needs and suggested improvements in systems.
    • Integrate land use and transport for rural women’s food production and delivery to urban areas.
      • Design and manage municipal markets to be user-friendly and safe for women.
      • Provide safe, accessible and affordable public transport between urban-peri-urban and rural areas.
      Peri-urban development should be carefully planned and account for the linkages between home, work, social services and transportation critical to women.
    • Regularization of informal settlements must recognize their complexity and develop solutions that are engendered and integrate the community needs.
    • Include grassroots and community based women in planning disaster risk reduction and support adaptation of their initiatives
      • Train women to incorporate geospatial land tools into mapping their communities and identifying needs, and reducing vulnerabilities to natural and man-made disasters.
      • Recognize the important role of grassroots women in resilience and support and invest in up-scaling community and grassroots resilience initiatives.
      • Support and fund partnerships between government agencies, grassroots women and research institutions to develop bottom up solutions for DRR
      • Establish legal and institutional framework that ensures eco-sustainable urban development.
        • Ensure that development is sustainable by adopting evaluation tools that analyze impact of international and other investments in local ecology.
        • Create frameworks that reward implementation of climate appropriate technologies.
        • Provide awareness and advocacy campaigns that emphasize impact of urban development on environment and effects on women’s rights.
      • Show links between consumer economies and disasters to the global public.
Ian at The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Sun, March 27, 2016 at 12.39 am

Thanks for all comments. Two points to follow up:

1. Someone said more World Bank, and the like, involvement. From my experience their experts fly in, often with little knowledge of local context, then fly out. Any financial aid can only be used to then pay World Bank employees.

2. With respect to the US more local government involvement might work well, but in many parts of Asia it is the fact that that local governments are making nationally significant decisions about cities and their development, and these agencies have no care and/or expertise, plus are open to corruption, means bad planning decisions – at least with respect to social cohesion, etc. – transpire.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sat, March 26, 2016 at 11.10 pm

Thank you very much Catherine Holt Toledo your intervention and for mentioning the situation of women in urban public spaces. Do you know any good practice of urban policy, which includes a gender/human rights based approach? Many thanks.  

James Goldstein Sustainability research and consulting from United States
Sat, March 26, 2016 at 07.06 pm

The Right to the City framework is useful for building inclusive, sustainable and accessible urban spaces that reflect and encompass the diversity and needs of all inhabitants. Following are several key points for consideration:

–  Urban land use policies, planning, designs, and governnace should be based on meaningful community engagement — including women, elderly, disabled, low-income and other often marginalized groups — and reflect the range of needs of these populations.

– Public spaces should be controlled by local governments or the community itself, not private parties.

– To promote equity, public space should be distributed throughout a city, providing open access to all neighborhoods, income levels, and social groups. Geospatial technologies can be useful in assessing the distribution of existing public spaces and where inequities need to be addressed.

– The accessibility of urban spaces is defined by ease and safety of access for pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation users.

– In rapidly growing cities, advanced geospatial planning with meaningful community engagemet processes that involve the full diversity of residents is critical for ensuring urban spaces that reflect the needs of all inhabitants. including those in informal settlements.

– City regulatory frameworks (e.g., land-use zoning, building codes) as well as infrastructure design requirements (for streets, sidewalks, public transportation facilities and equipment) can help ensure urban space accessibility by all inhabitants.

– Linking local government approvals for private housing and/or commercial developments to requirements for creating housing for low-income residents (as well as public spaces) can increase the diversity of housing stock and help meet the diverse needs of all residents.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sat, March 26, 2016 at 10.47 pm

Thank you very much James Goldstein for your intervention and interesting suggestions. Regarding the first point, what mechanisms could be put in place to ensure meaningful community engagement? 

Rema lecturer from Syrian Arab Republic
Sat, March 26, 2016 at 04.50 am

Hello every body. I think that two main conditions guarantee building inclusive urban spaces : good governance and security. when good governance exists, people who are responsible of decision making process will be open to the views and concerns of all users.  Also, the quality and responsiveness of these people will ultimately lead  to sustainability. 

Accessibility could define the nature of the space, the kind of activities happening there as well as the range of users. A public space which is supposed to be accessible may become a semi-public and controlled space, if security guards are frequently present at entry points. In this case, a homeless person may not have access to such public space. Another public space may be accessible only to those who pay to enter and use the space; this in turn will give the space a particular social-symbolic character. On the other hand, these restrictions to free access have no impact on the presence of  the three types of Lofland’s public realm, as these could be still found wherever accessibility is practiced in different degrees.    

Through experiencing Syrian crisis and as a Syrian citizen living in Damascus, I have become more concern about security and public spaces. It really changes some theoretical studies that I analyzed during my Phd in 2009. For example, through observation and analysis of spaces in Copenhagen between 1968 and 1986, Gehl found that quality improvement depended on trying to find more spaces for “a broader spectrum of human activities”, thus making spaces more conducive to public social life (Gehl, 1987, p.34). Moreover it was found that improvement of the physical conditions of public areas has been accompanied with increase in the number of pedestrians; lengthening of the time spent outdoors; and a wider range of outdoors activities. In other words, when “a better physical framework is created, outdoor activities tend to grow in number, duration and scope” (Gehl, 1987, p.39). But this ignores other circumstances which could exist – e.g. political and economic circumstances (e.g. if there was violence, terror works or extreme poverty in the society this would not necessarily be true). As such Gehl’s findings are conditional and not causal.         

 Syria has begun a transitional period  disrupted by  unrest and radical events. The public spaces has become a space of confusion, where one can feel afraid, safe sad, happy, hopeful, and desperate all at once.

Many thanks for this opportunity to participate in thos discussion and looking forward to hearing from you. 

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sat, March 26, 2016 at 09.17 pm

My most sincere thanks for your intervention, Rema, and for sharing with us your experience in Syria. The New Urban Agenda should indeed pay particular attention to those living in situations of risk, armed conflict and humanitarian emergencies. Would you like to share additional information about the transformation/use of the public spaces in your city ? 

Nelson Saule Júnior Lawyer , Gereral Coordinator from Brazil
Sat, March 26, 2016 at 12.38 am
  •     In the  perspective of the Global Platform the Righ to the City  is fundamental  to have democracy and  direct  participation by the inhabitants and   the organizations of the civil society  in the decision making process  relating planning and mangement of the cities  A city with quality public spaces that enhances social interactions and political participation,  promotes socio-cultural expressions, embraces diversity, and fosters social cohesion; a city where public spaces contribute to building safer cities and to meeting the needs of inhabitants.  It is very important to  adopted the principle of social use of the public and private urban   land /property  and use the legal and administrative tools like  social concession of the public  space for social economy and cultural needs of the youth people for example
Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sat, March 26, 2016 at 10.18 pm

Thank you very much Nelson Saule Júnior for your valuable comment. Would you like to explain further the other legal and administrative tools? 

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Fri, March 25, 2016 at 10.58 pm

Dear all, as tomorrow is the last day of this urban dialogue on public spaces, we would be glad to see as many interventions and comments as possible. Your participation is crucial in this process towards the UN Habitat III Conference. We look forward to receiving and reading your contribution ! 

RB Singh Professor from India
Fri, March 25, 2016 at 11.12 am

1. hierarchy: Three tier urban space system should be promoted that is, city level, district/zone level and locality level.

2. Integration: In order to achieve equity, sustainability and accessibility of urban spaces, such geographical hierarchical levels should be integrated with sectoral requirements (educational, health, recreational, commercial, religious and other services).

3. Linkages: Integrated spaces should be i nter-linked with Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk Reduction likle promotion of safe shelter, emergency services and training of youth and children for DRR.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Fri, March 25, 2016 at 09.45 pm

Thank you very much RB Singh for your comment and for bringing to this discussion the issue of disaster risk reduction. How could public spaces be localities that build resilience ? Do you have any positive example that you would like to share with us ? Is there anyone else who would like to comment on this issue ?

University of Oxford – COMPAS – Urban Transformations
Wed, March 23, 2016 at 07.23 pm

Regarding the question on how to build accessible urban spaces, I would like to address the so-called ‘smart city’ discussion here. Actually, when everything could be seem solved by the layer of technologically-driven fantastic world, the way population access to technology and the uneven investment in urban areas explains the real fact these days. However, we cannot be ignore the great benefit that technology itself could mean for our the development of our cities.

In the last years, I have been working a published an article in the Journal of Urban Technology that ranks 7th Most Read with more than 1527 views entitled: ‘Unplugging: Deconstructing the Smart City’ https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10630732.2014.971535#abstract

In the article, I reflected on a notion that is the ambient commons that could be understood as the sense of the place beyond the physical elements. As this regards, the urban commons discussion is very much relevant in this thematic context too regarding the political economy of the space in our cities.

See you soon in BCN on 4-5th April!

Dr Igor Calzada, MBA

University of Oxford- Urban Transformations


Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Fri, March 25, 2016 at 07.59 am

Thank you very much Igor Calzada for your valuable contribution and article. Thank you also for bringing to this discussion the concept of “ambient commons”. Would  you like to explain further this concept in the context of public spaces? How it can be translated into urban policies? 

University of Oxford
Sun, March 27, 2016 at 05.40 pm

Dear Lydia,

Regarding your response, certainly ambient commons is one of the consequences of how unplugging the smartness in our cities is necessary, also from the policy perspective. Let’s say that I aimend to point out a key debate that is actually consuming many policy agendas and resources without any serious debate about it. In this section, I did not see anything related to this and it is why I will attend Barcelona on 4 and 5 April from the University of Oxford, Urban Transformations. About your specific of ‘ambient commons’ is quite a new concept that I detailed and developed in broader framework that is detailed in the article published in the Journal of Urban Technology ranked in the 7th Most Read position so far. I would be glad discussing broader these issues in Barcelona from 4th April. Kind regards,

Dr Igor Calzada, MBA


Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sat, April 2, 2016 at 08.16 pm

Thank you for your reply, Igor Calzada. I wish you and all participants fruitful discussions in Barcelona. 

“Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Erasmus University, Rotterdam”
Sun, March 20, 2016 at 08.46 pm

From what have been currently happened in some cities in Indonesia, one of the missing gaps on providing public spaces is that the local government still do not take into account the local communities’ voices in the planning process. This has led to empty public spaces and “bad” perception that public spaces like square, parks and other kind of urban public spaces, are just for the poor; while the upper middle class and rich people prefer to the malls and other kind of leisure and comfort places. This condition has been happened for a long time in most big cities in Indonesia, until eventually it arrived to a certain point where more and more people are getting bored with malls and other big scale recreation developments. This condition has encouraged some local communities (mostly the communities are identified as “creative communities) to take actions in activating neglected spaces. One of the cities that has been considered to successfully activate public spaces and engage local citizens is Bandung, in West Java Region. From previous researches, many scholars and practicioners are believed that one of the key success factors that has most influenced the city is because the current mayor, Ridwan Kamil, is a famous architect and urban designer that has, for a long time, concerned with city’s public spaces and was initiated in the activation of public spaces through creative events and communities. So it’s not so surprising then that since Ridwan Kamil has been a mayor, he has put larger efforts on renovating and activating public spaces, especially public parks, through collaboration with creative communities and engagement of local communities. The most interesting fact is that the local government has also collaborated with private sectors for the public spaces activation. Until now, there has been more than 10 thematic urban parks that have been revitalized as results of collaboration between government, local communities and private sectors. Since then, not only there has been a shift perception of public spaces from “poor people places” into “everybody’s places”, but also the use of public spaces for the citizens and also visitors. Therefore, I think one of the missing gaps and barriers for accessible public spaces, especially in developing countries, is the role of local government to engage local communities in the planning process; and also as a bridge between the local communities and private sectors’ interests. Because what has happened in the country is that most of the local governments just keep planning and designing the public spaces and its renovation without really considering the needs of their citizens. I alse attached a journal about the transformation of public spaces in Bandung that has happened in the last few years.

Ian at The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Mon, March 21, 2016 at 12.15 am

Very interesting post: public authority intent has a massive impact on not only the creation of spaces but also their uses. In the Philippines colonial era spaces – both Spanish and American era spaces – were designed for communal use. Due to issues of accessibility these once community spaces have now been diminished to something else: a reversal of the Indonesian/Bandung situation has occured. Notable too is that, at least with reference to the American colonial era, spaces were formed to ensure all social and racial groups came together as ‘filipinos’, i.e. to demonstrate and indeed promote nationhood. Now quite the opposite has occurred. A dichotomy in who uses spaces has become apparent.

Carlos Javier Salinas Leyva Arquitecto urbanista from Mexico
Fri, March 18, 2016 at 05.12 pm

Primeramente es necesario partir de una analisis de la ciudad, conocer su pasado, cultura, tradiciones para poder reflejar en el diseño las necesidades de la colectividad, hablar de espacios publicos en un contexto local (en este caso Chilpancingo, Guerrero, México) es cada dia complicado se requiere de un cambio en la manera de planearlos para que realmente la ciudadania se sienta parte de el, se apropie de su espacio y lo haga suyo, creo que a traves de una Planeación Participativa se lograra hacer que los espacios publicos sean realmente vivibles, sean acogidos por la sociedad y se hagan propios, asi que espacio publico se podria volver seguro, resiliente, equitativo e incluyente.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Fri, March 18, 2016 at 06.20 pm

Muchas gracias Carlos Salinas por su aporte. Usted rescata la importancia de la Planeación participativa y seria enriquecedor para este foro proporcionar más detalles sobre este concepto, y cuales serian los mecanismos de consulta con los ciudadanos. En el caso mexicano, usted conoce alguna buena práctica? 

Carlos Javier Salinas Leyva Arquitecto urbanista from Mexico
Sat, March 19, 2016 at 06.21 pm

La Planeación Participativa en Guerrero es algo muy nuevo,  lo implementamos para la concepción del proyecto hidroelectrico de “La Parota”,  se le dedicaron varios meses para su creación pero desafortunadamente no se logro realizar el proyecto, sin embargo todos los proyectos de las diversas comunidades si se llevaron a cabo, les comparto el proyecto de tesis que en su momento se realizo espero les sirva y en el capitulo 4 viene explicado el proceso de Planeación Participativa que se realizo, espero resulte positivo y sirva como una herrameinta para las futuras intervenciones en la recuperacion y/o creación del espacio publico.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sun, March 20, 2016 at 01.23 pm

Gracias nuevamente, Carlos, por su valioso aporte. En el documento que nos compartió, es interesante de ver la etapa sobre la participación de los habitantes en el diseño de sus viviendas en un contexto de desplazamiento a causa de proyectos de infraestructura. Partiendo de la experiencia de “Venta Vieja”, ¿cómo se podría exportar el modelo de planeación participativa en ciudades de porte medio/grande? Otro tema relacionado que sería importante discutir es sobre la vulnerabilidad de los habitantes en casos de desastres naturales en las ciudades. Usted conocería alguna buena práctica sobre la inclusión de la población, incluyendo personas de edad y personas con discapacidad, en políticas de gestión para la reducción de riesgo de desastres y resiliencia?

Rafael Hortua Analista-redactor en políticas e intervenciones de desarrollo from Canada
Thu, March 17, 2016 at 06.33 pm

La construccion de espacios urbanos incluyentes requiere que el diseño de esos espacios tenga muy en cuenta el contexto cultural local. Un espacio urbano incluyente, sostenible y accesible es aquel que invita a todos los ciudadanos a recorrerlo, a aprenderlo y especialmente, a volverlo un lugar de referencia que justifica ser cuidado y mejorado en el tiempo.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Fri, March 18, 2016 at 06.11 pm

Muchas gracias Rafael Hortua por su contribución. Agradeceria si pudiera compartir sus ideas sobre cómo ese proceso de construcción de los espacios puede incluir a los grupos que son marginalizados. ¿Qué tipos de procesos participativos en la comunidad podrían ser establecidos?

indu prakash singh I work on the Urban issues of India. Been active on it since 1993 from India
Thu, March 17, 2016 at 11.48 am

How do we build inclusive, sustainable and accessible urban spaces that reflect and encompass the diversity and needs of all inhabitants?

We need all the sections of the society to be included right from the urban planning phase. Especially the resource-opportunity- institutional deficit- service/scheme/entitlements deficit- law/ justice deficit – economy deficit- polity deficit- societal deficit- equity deficit – dignity deficit, resultant poor. 

Leaving anyone will make a city that much askewed and injustice ridden. 

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Fri, March 18, 2016 at 07.29 pm

Thank you very much Indu Prakash Singhfor sharing with us information about the ActionAid in India. This brings to light the important issue of how can public spaces be used as a tool for excluded group to project their voice and participate in the decision making affecting their lives. Would you or anyone else like to share their thoughts on this issue?

Alice Claeson from Sweden
Thu, March 17, 2016 at 11.47 am

To fully reflect the needs of all people, urban spaces should be created with a full understanding of the impact that such spaces may have on human health and well-being. Urban development should not only protect from direct damages to health, but also be proactive in creating a context where health and well-being is actively being promoted.

For example, this means creating safe and secure public spaces that are available for all, that supports traditional and healthier modes of transportation such as walking and cycling.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sat, March 19, 2016 at 11.32 am

Thank you very much for your intervention, Alice Claeson. The urban environment has a major impact on the quality of life of inhabitants, their mobility and the ability of certain groups to effectively use urban spaces.

There are projects that promote active ageing in cities, for instance the WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities. This initiative has established a check list of infrastructures and services such as adequate pavements for walking/ cycling, safe pedestrian crossings, among others. Would you like to provide additional examples of what is missing from our public spaces that would enhance health, participation and safety of all inhabitants ? 

Alice Claeson from Sweden
Thu, March 17, 2016 at 11.47 am

To fully reflect the needs of all people, urban spaces should be created with a full understanding of the impact that such spaces may have on human health and well-being. Urban development should not only protect from direct damages to health, but also be proactive in creating a context where health and well-being is actively being promoted.

For example, this means creating safe and secure public spaces that are available for all, that supports traditional and healthier modes of transportation such as walking and cycling.

indu prakash singh I work on the Urban issues of India. Been active on it since 1993 from India
Thu, March 17, 2016 at 12.00 pm

Fully agree with you.

Our approach has to be holistic. 

Cátedra UNESCO paisajes culturales y patrimonio. UPV/EHU
Thu, March 17, 2016 at 10.05 am

I think it is important to reflect on the different uses that public spaces have today. In our view it is essential that the associated cultural values ​​are respected. We can not forget that public spaces are a prominent part in the genus loci of historic cities.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator Consultant at OHCHR from Switzerland
Fri, March 18, 2016 at 07.23 pm

Thank you very much Ian y Cátedra UNESCO paisajes culturales for your contributions. Cultural heritage is crucial to human dignity and the identity of communities, groups and individuals. There are several legal instruments that recognise the right to access to, and the enjoyment of cultural heritage, for instance article 15(1)(a) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which obliges States to recognize the right of everyone to take part in cultural life.

Therefore let’s try to further explore this issue. When you talk about cultural heritage and cultural rights, we need to include the right to participate in the identification, interpretation and development of cultural heritage, as well as in the design and implementation of protection/ preservation/ safeguards policies and programmes. Another point that Ian raised is the accountability of local and national governments. States should be held accountable for the respect and protection of the rights of individuals to cultural heritage. If they fail in their duties then a person should have access to justice and be able to initiate proceedings for appropriate redress before suitable court.

In the case of Manila, how the population has been involved in the design and implementation of the urban planning? Could someone share information about the participation of excluded groups in the design, adoption and implementation of urban policies? 

Ian at The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Sat, March 19, 2016 at 01.25 am

The general population are not involved directly in planning policy implementation. Under the political-legal system, based on the US governmental model, various public authorities discuss proposals, make recommendations, or suggest permits, e.g. in relation to heritage preservation, should be offered so schemes can go ahead. The interesting thing about the case I am involved in is that the newly co strutted tower caused a fire storm on social media, was then picked up by the mass media, and in terms of petitioning the construction of the aforesaid high rise building, a lobby group took the case directly to the Supreme Court. Notably too, the initial readings in the Court centred on the legal argument which based said “why are you bothering us? Isn’t it a case for the smaller courts?” However, cultural heritage cases, such as the one I am involved in, are of national significance – the court outcome either way offers a legal precedence as to the role of space in cultural heritage – so needs to be considered at the highest legal level. The need for this is compounded by local government, neither motivate, interested, and in many cases swayed by exterior ‘influences’, making decisions of national impact. So, to sum up, the Torre de Manila has become a marker of people questioning the political system. As such, as I have argued, the case is about space and heritage, but in actuality is about the rule of law and governance.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Sun, March 20, 2016 at 01.01 pm

Thank you once again for your valuable contribution, Ian. Your experience shows that more must be done to empower individuals, groups and communities, and enable them to take part in decision making about public spaces. Indeed, does anyone else have similar evidence of the situation in their own countries regarding cultural heritage in urban spaces?

Frederic Saliez from
Thu, March 17, 2016 at 09.49 am

A greater variety of uses and users can be accomodated (not necessarily at the same time) in public spaces that aren’t to specific in their design and equipment.  However, such places require a management authority, or a strong social consensus, that is able to mediate conflict of uses and “orchestrate” the sequence of uses/users to ensure that there is no excessive appropriation by one group to the detriment of another (for instance men vs women, child vs teenagers vs adults vs eldery, ethnic1 vs ethnic2, etc). Basic conditions of safety and confort shall obviously be met to accomodate the needs and fears of everyone.  

Distribution of public spaces accross the city is important as well.  Ensuring a fine-grid distribution of small (neighbourhood) public spaces creates more options for day-to-day social interaction and identification.    Large city-level or metropolitan level public spaces present the advantage and disadvantage of being more anonymous (less social pressure).  They allow for greater diversity of uses and users, but accessibility (mobility/transport) is a challenge.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Fri, March 18, 2016 at 06.44 pm

Thank you very much for your comments Frederic Saliez.  You raised an important issue regarding large scale urban areas. Could you please specify what are the challenges and, if possible, what measures would you suggest to overcome them? 

Ian at The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Wed, March 16, 2016 at 12.50 am

I see the problem as two-fold: one is spaces do exist yet they are largely inacessible to many, at least in the capitals of the Developing World, due to the problems of lack of public transport and so time needed to get to them. Manila is a classic example in this regard – central urban space can take two hours to reach from the periphery. The other issue is in many cities hardly any public spaces are being laid down, let alone along any guidelines that hint at inclusiveness. As such when space is made it is privately not publically accessible.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Wed, March 16, 2016 at 10.22 am

Thank you very much for your contribution, Ian. It is crucial to receive information from different regions. Would you like to share more information about the challenges faced by specific groups in urban spaces in your country or in other places in Asia? Are you aware of any urban policy, law or any other framework aimed at adapting current urban spaces to the demographic changes, for instance measures towards eliminating existing barriers, improving public transportation?

Ian at The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Wed, March 16, 2016 at 10.31 am

As a historian I’m interested in how people have interacted with spaces, and how with urban evolution this interaction can change. I’ve been involved in a heritage case in Manila, in which a park containing the national monument has had its central sightline broken by a 49-storey tower built to the rear of the park. I can’t speak directly about transport, but as people in Manila have moved from the inner districts to the suburbs their collective memory as to the space, its use and meaning in the past, has now been threatened by the construction of the large tower. There’s information online about this – and I can add additional coments if you like – but Google Torre de Manila and you can see the predicament the tower, poor governance and spatial management has created.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Thu, March 17, 2016 at 07.12 am

Thank you very much, Ian, for brining to this discussion the fundamental issue of the right of access to and enjoyment of cultural heritage by all inhabitants and the importance of developing and implementing culturally sensitive urban spacial planning. What can be done in design and planning to avoid destroying or ruining a culturally and historically important part of a community’s urban space while responding, at the same time, to the needs of current and furture generations? 

Ian at The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Thu, March 17, 2016 at 08.14 am

Dear Lydia, I think it comes back to my first posting: there are design guidelines a plenty, but if the public sector does not want to apply rules, or simply ignores its own rules – in Manila laws of heritage protection and spatial sightlines have been tossed aside – then space will be take for granted/mismanaged/abused/removed by development. In the case I have been involved in, a petition was put to the Supreme Court of the Philippines which made certain ‘protectors’ of space explain, legally, why the rules say one thing and their actions were another.

MA Architecture + Urbanism Manchester School of Architecture
Tue, March 15, 2016 at 03.14 pm

In a world where urban inequality presents itself as an insurmountable problem there is no question that a transformation of our cities is needed. Can we continue to live our lives in naïve serenity and rely on our local and national governments to change these circumstances? What roles does architecture play in this dilemma?

Urban challenges of underutilized space and irrational overbuilding have created a global divide for shelter which should be addressed with resourcefulness. To build homes quickly, local materials and plans for shelter need to be identified before an emergency arises. The potential for future re-use should always be considered. Is this agenda a sufficiently high priority for architects?

An initiative towards innovative but reliable architecture offers one solution. To simplify the conflict between social need and the existing infrastructure requires a mobilisation of solidarity. Should we be standing at the front of this battle not as reporters but as engaged architects addressing issues of resilient urban design? The processes for the creation of public space need to engage dynamically with users rather than developers.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Tue, March 15, 2016 at 05.49 pm

It is great to also have the participation of architects in our discussions. Thank you very much for being part of this Forum. One of the main purposes of this discussion is to bring people from different backgrounds and perspectives in order to share challenges as well as good practices on urban spaces. Perhaps you would like to share with us your thoughts on the question of urban design, and what we should be looking for from urban planners as well as from architects? When designing public urban spaces how are the needs and rights of specific groups included in architecture studies?  What about universal design?  In addition, regarding the issue of engaging users, what measures can be taken to enhance their participation in the planning, implementation and evaluation of public spaces? 

Mark Tirpak Urban Planner from United States
Mon, March 14, 2016 at 09.11 pm

I think that we need to make sure that we’re not planning for segregation or economically tiered or tied access in public spaces, including with offerings, events and ‘quality of life’ policing that tends to be against the poorest.  New more exclusionary public ‘placemaking’ (or ‘placechanging / ‘placetaking’) activities such as ‘gourmet’ food truck offerings, fundraising diners en blanc  (which can tie up considerable public resources in event management), recreational and shopping activities and spaces for dogs/pet owners before people, and related quality of life policing that discriminates against the poor (new laws against ‘loitering’, ‘charitable feeding’ and other giving etc in public spaces) should be challenged. 

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator Consultant at OHCHR from Switzerland
Tue, March 15, 2016 at 11.22 am

Thank you very much for your comment, Mark.  By adopting a human rights based approach, urban plannings should have a people centre approach, and the private sector has an increasing centre role in urban development. Regarding this issue, there are the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which provide guidance on responsible contracting and State-investor contract negotiations (https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf).  As an urban planner, do you have any additional suggestions regarding how States could improve the accessibility and mobility of certain groups, including older persons and persons with disabilities, in urban spaces?

Mark Tirpak Urban Planner from United States
Tue, March 15, 2016 at 05.03 pm

In the US,  attention to American Disability Act (ADA) minimum requirements (including transition requirements) as well as overall aims is important – as enhanced with recommendations from groups such as Safe Routes to Schools and American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) which are advocating for various VisionZero physical improvements (such as wider / better footpath design and other physical and cultual changes) to car-dominated environments (which can include school grounds in the US).  In the US, we’re getting seemingly every month new and more detailed information about the extent of ecomonic segregation within urban areas and across states (Distressed Community Index / super zipcodes in the US, a new Opportunity Index, The Big Sort etc) as well as at least some measures of ‘walkability’ (although current measures – WalkScore in particular – seem to miss informal paths such as parking lots, creek lines, some alley ways and rail right-of-ways).  Planners can use such data as well as physical analysis (such as by looking at Google aeral imagery and streetview as combined with exploring actual areas as a pedestrian – with a bike or skateboard providing greater awareness of curb etc obstacles) to look at public services, economic opportunity and infrastructure in distressed areas as well as super zips. To consider how to best strengthen physical, public/mass transit and economic access within and between super zips and distressed areas (across cities  as well as states).  This seems in keeping with the ‘new urban agenda’ of no more gated communities (expanding the notion to consider super zips as well as distressed areas and physical and other mobility across cities and states).

In addition, following the lead of more ‘humanistic’ urban planning as advanced by Jan Gehl others, there seems ever more attention to human or ‘user’ experience (UX) in pedestrian as well as mass transit design in the US (likely behind other areas of the world in this regard).  It’s very heartening to read of US planners trying to establish the ‘happiest’ routes and not just the most efficient – particularly when there’s high equity in access to ‘happy’ routes and places.

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Wed, March 16, 2016 at 10.18 am

Thank you once again for your valuable comment, Mark, and for sharing with us the information about the existence of data and index in the US. This is extremely useful! Does anyone else would like to share information about statistical data, index, or studies that assess the situation and needs of specific groups in urban spaces?

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator from Switzerland
Mon, March 14, 2016 at 09.02 pm

Thank you very much, Thomas, for your contribution.  SDG Goal 16 is indeed a crucial element that we need to take into account in our discussions since it promotes peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. Is there any practice that can be shared about inner cities that have reduced violence and established safeguards that allow those who are more vulnerable to feel less threatened?

Thomas Senior Researcher from South Africa
Tue, March 15, 2016 at 01.18 pm

My understanding is that things have moved on since the original “Broken Windows” theorizing during the 80s, (largely pushing against the idea that it could somehow explain everything), but the World Bank pulled together quite a bit of reporting on this question a few years ago (here).  Hopefully that work can prompt some kind of discussion during the Barcelona meetings!

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator Consultant at OHCHR from Switzerland
Tue, March 15, 2016 at 05.46 pm

Thank you once again Thomas for your helpful contribution and, in particular, for having drawn our attention to the World Bank reports. I’m sure we shall all find them very useful in the context of our discussions. Much appreciated. Indeed, does anyone else have similar evidence of the situation in their own countries to help us develop this important aspect of our discussion?

Thomas Senior Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, Pretoria from South Africa
Mon, March 14, 2016 at 11.29 am

This sounds like this could be a really great discussion, and thanks to the organisers for pulling it together…

I’m interested in the regional perspective, especially since you raise the concept of dignity… The African Charter explicitly includes references to dignity, and the draft of its new protocol on older persons includes that:

States Parties shall ensure that the principles of independence, dignity, self-fulfilment, participation and care of Older Persons are included in their national laws and are legally binding as the basis for ensuring their rights

There’s obviously a very long way to go before the realisation of those principles within a great deal of African urban space, but more broadly I think it’s also important to focus on perhaps a more immediate challenge – namely peace and security within large cities around the world. Given how much we know about how patterns of violence can be determined by physican surroundings (all of that research that was done in slums of American cities for example) perhaps more intersections can be drawn between this conversation that those around SDG Goal 16?

Lydia Gény – Discussion Moderator Consultant at OHCHR from Switzerland
Mon, March 14, 2016 at 10.32 am

Welcome to the online discussion on public spaces for the Barcelona Thematic Meeting. I’m delighted to be moderating this discussion and look forward to hearing from you. In particular, I’m interested in how States can ensure that all individuals, in particular those in vulnerable situations, enjoy their human rights in urban spaces. It is therefore important to address the issue of urban spaces through a human rights-based approach.  

There are a series of barriers in public spaces that obstruct certain groups from fully enjoying their human rights and from living securely, peacefully and with dignity in their communities. Urban spaces often exacerbate segregation and exclude certain groups, including older persons and those with disabilities.

Let me start the discussion by saying that this Forum offers a unique opportunity to discuss the key challenges faced by specific groups in urban spaces all around the world, and to identify best practices and innovative ways of addressing those concerns.

For urban spaces to be age- and disability-friendly environments, they need to guarantee the participation and accessibility of specific groups that tend to be left behind. Let’s think about what policies, programmes and other frameworks can be of benefit for older persons, persons with disabilities and those living in vulnerable situations. What kind of innovative housing, transportation, building programmes and codes, could make our cities inclusive, sustainable and accessible to all? What is the role in future of those responsible for urban planning? What are the existing gaps between the needs and rights of those groups in urban spaces? These are just some of the issues that we will discuss over the next two weeks.

I look forward to active and fruitful discussions!